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HiveMind is a quirky look at a little-known history of Australia’s federal parliaments – a delightful story of passion, serendipity and bees. The Exhibition, opening just in time for World Bee Day on the 20th of May, features a hand-made ‘democratic hive’ collaborative art installation and invites and challenges visitors to explore what we can learn about our modern system of democracy from honeybees through objects and stories of beekeeping at Parliament House – both old and new.

“Bees provide a template for democracy, the ‘sweetspot’ of collective decision making,” said MoAD‘s Director, Daryl Karp. “They are nature’s example of democracy in action, and we hope to take visitors to the real heart of what democracy is in a way that, hopefully, surprises and inspires,” she said.

HiveMind: Honeybees, Democracy and Me explores the entertaining beginnings of beekeeping at Old Parliament House in the late 1970s, to a new age of beekeeping and democracy at Australia’s Parliament House today.

The exhibition is a light, playful look at the history of honeybees on the grounds of the nation’s decision-making house and what bees’ collective decision making can teach us about hitting the sweet spot of democracy. HiveMind features hexagonal panels from the collaborative art piece forming a honeycomb on the walls, beekeeping artefacts kindly provided by the Yates family and Mr Farrell, and imagery of Parliament’s beekeeping history from archives.

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to allow beekeeping on Parliament House grounds, and this exhibition uncovers and tells the story through the eyes of William Yates MP who sought permission to keep bees at Old Parliament House.

“The Yates family is delighted that the role of bees and beekeeping and their connection to our democracy is being celebrated,” said Peter Yates AM, son of William Yates MP. “The fact that our father, William Yates, was determined to bring his joy of beekeeping to Parliament House is a wonderful reminder of his passion, humour and approach to problem solving,” he said.

The stories were brought to life in a panel discussion at the exhibition launch on Tuesday 18th May. Walkley-winning journalist, presenter and commentator, Jan Fran led the panel with William Yates’ son, Peter Yates AM, and current Head Beekeeper of Parliament, Cormac Farrell, at MoAD.

“We often think of democracy and voting as a uniquely human process, but honeybees don’t just use democratic processes, they specifically use this for some of their critical life-or-death decisions,” said Cormac.

“Their system of ‘first past the post’ voting is an example of how democracy doesn’t just extend back to ancient Greece – it has probably existed since the time of the dinosaurs,” he continued.

HiveMind: Honeybees, Democracy and Me is now open at the Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House in Canberra. This is a free, non-ticketed exhibition on show until 2022. For more information visit www.moadoph.gov.au/exhibitions/hive-mind/

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